Unprecedented set of weighty issues now consuming Congress, so where do lawmakers begin?


There’s something called “frequency illusion.” It’s a phenomenon that once you notice something for the first time, you start to notice it over and over again. But you’re just more aware of it. It’s not just popping up more and more.

On Capitol Hill, it may be easy-to-miss stuff in this environment. A nearly unprecedented set of weighty issues is now consuming Congress.

Which subject unfolding on Capitol Hill is more important? And, as a reporter, which category deserves your time? The time of your readers/viewers/listeners? There are so many from which to choose. 

Let’s start with Capitol insurrection. Congress will pick up the pieces from the riot for years. A cavalcade of those charged in connection with the melee appears in federal court every day, be it Olympic gold medalist Klete Keller or members of the Ohio State Regular Militia.

Let’s examine how officials secure the Capitol now.


How long will National Guard troops, in fatigues and toting M4 carbines, remain, to protect the seat of democracy? Or, what led someone at the Capitol to move some of the soldiers out of the Capitol to a chilly parking garage? Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman says her force “did not instruct the National Guard to vacate the Capitol Building facilities.”

An inquiry continues.

Here are some issues worthy of investigation:

Some troops were removed because of their extremist ties. How big a problem is that? Or, shall we address public health? You have thousands (THOUSANDS) of troops, occupying the Capitol, sleeping on floors in the basement, on cots in the Radio-TV Gallery Studio and in the Library of Congress. They’re shoulder to shoulder. And now, there are HUNDREDS of cases of COVID-19 among those guarding the building.

Is there really a lesser of two evils in this instance?

Do you want to have insurrectionists storm the Capitol again or do you want to spread coronavirus?

And what sort of security is necessary at the Capitol for a second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump? House impeachment managers haul over a single article of impeachment against Mr. Trump on Monday. That formally triggers an impeachment trial. This is the second such trial for the former president – just 53 weeks after his last one began.

Oh, the debates which lie ahead when the trial shifts into gear on February 9. Did the president in fact incite the insurrection, as charged? Can the Senate conduct an impeachment trial for a former federal official? Well, yes. There have only been 21 impeachments of federal figures in U.S. history. But the Senate has in fact forged ahead with a trial even though some of those officials left office. Does U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts preside? How will Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vote? Could a McConnell vote to convict convince other Republicans to join him? It takes two-thirds of the Senate to convict. Does it do any good to hold a trial vote after someone is out of office? And, if the Senate does convict, will it pass a separate measure barring the ex-president from holding office again?


This all comes as there is a vicious, internecine verbal brawl between House members over internal security. Democrats accuse some Republicans – so far without evidence – of leading “reconnaissance tours” for rioters. Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Calif., say they’ve seen no evidence of their colleagues helping rioters scope out the Capitol. But Pelosi implied that those who voted to contest Electoral College results “gave aid and comfort to those with the idea that they were embracing a lie. A lie perpetrated by the President of the United States.”

That was a rhetorical, not-so-sleight-of-hand by the speaker which is sure to ignite the ire of Republicans. Take a look at Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or, in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

A probe continues.

Meantime, the House is planning to vote on a resolution next month which will require members to pass through metal detectors to enter the House floor. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., is a freshman who has made videos bragging about how she’ll defy Washington, D.C.’s, strict gun laws and carry her sidearm on Capitol Hill. Boebert balked at having her bag inspected by USCP officers when entering the House chamber two weeks ago. When asked by Fox if she was willing to pay a fine for bypassing the magnetizers, Boebert replied “we’ll see.”

USCP officers stopped Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., after he attempted to bring a firearm into the chamber and pass through the mags – as first reported by Matt Fuller of HuffPost. Republican members of Congress are apoplectic about the new magnetometer policy. Some argue that impeding them from entering the chamber violates Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution, known as the “Speech or Debate Clause.” The Constitution says lawmakers are “privileged from Arrest during their attendance at the Session of their Respective Houses, and in going to and from the same.”


Democrats and Republicans are fighting. But some Republicans are at war with themselves. A large swath of House Republicans wants to ditch Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., chairwoman of the House Republican Conference. That’s the No. 3 GOP leadership slot. Many Republicans are furious with Cheney after she voted to impeach Trump. Expect more discussion on Cheney’s future behind the scenes this week.

Don’t forget that seven Senate Democrats have referred Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to the Senate Ethics Committee. The Democrats want the panel to determine whether the objections by Hawley and Cruz to electoral votes contributed to the riots. 

The Senate still must establish a framework to handle the impeachment trial. And forget working out an agreement for the trial. Democrats and Republicans still haven’t authored a power-sharing agreement for a 50-50 Senate. Without it, Senate committees are screwed up, technically without chairs. Republicans are pushing for new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to promise he won’t eliminate filibusters for legislation. Schumer won’t do that. Meantime, Schumer is under pressure from the left to terminate the filibuster. And, the New York Democrat hears footsteps. He could face a primary challenge next year.

Progressives want to eliminate the filibuster to implement climate change policy, new gun restrictions and grant statehood to Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Sixty votes are now required to end a filibuster. And a GOP filibuster serves as a rear-guard against the liberal wish list.

We haven’t even talked about the next COVID relief measure.

“The base wants action on a dozen different issues. They want things to happen right now,” said Darrell West of the Brookings Institution. “But given the way Congress is set up, it’s going to be hard to deliver all those issues.”

Ending the filibuster means Democrats have a lot of leverage. Republicans must rely on moderates like Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., to go along with them. That could prevent the Senate from establishing a new precedent, torching the filibuster.

So many major, extraordinary issues. All at the same time. It’s so much to consume. And it makes you wonder what you’re missing.




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